Yup. We, students, are Microsoft’s b*tches. At least, a huge majority of us are. Ever since we’re born, for those of us whose parents used Windows, we learned how to use Microsoft software… and stuck with it.
I grew up with Windows on the family computer. If you’re of my generation, it all started with Windows 98. Then came XP (my favourite), then the flop known as Vista (slow, buggy), then 7 (acceptable), and now Windows 8 (never again! shudders). As of October 2013, according to Net Applications, Windows-based computers (XP, Vista, 7, 8) account for roughly 90% of all computers in the world. As for Mac OS, nearly 8%. And Linux? Don’t bother asking. Or do the math.
Most don’t know anything other than Windows. Some don’t even know what Windows actually is. Also: “Mac OS… is that a new app for my iPhone? And… Linux? Oh, is it that thing for hackers and stuff? With the green text and all?” … mmh, not quite. But close.
Back to Microsoft in education. There is a huge probability that you or your child uses Windows at school. Most school systems around the world basically revolve around the Microsoft ecosystem: the two big names are the Office suite and the Windows operating system, but there’s also Internet Explorer (intranet school portals that won’t allow you to log in if you’re not using IE… ugh!) and now Skype. Heck, even the Xbox and Kinect are used for some projects!
Even in Primary School, [my son] was exposed to a Microsoft-dominated IT infrastructure. He would work on texts in MS Word, and create presentations in MS PowerPoint [...] —Eric Hameleers
Examples of Microsoft’s grip in education:
- The guidelines and instructions for writing your final essay will assume you use Microsoft Office Word
- The instructions for launching and using a math plotting software will assume you’re using a Windows-based PC (even if said software is open source and first existed on Linux)
- Computer labs are 100% composed of Windows computers
- School servers run Windows Server
[My daughter's instructor] said she HAD to have Microsoft Office. [...] First and foremost the instructor was only able to teach Microsoft Office because (1) that is what she had and (2) that is what she knew. —Jack Wallen
More and more, teachers everywhere are embracing technology to share documents with their students, monitor their progress on online assignments, and post their exam grades, which is all wonderful and a perfect usage of the technology, particularly when it comes to saving on printing fees and collaborating with other classmates. I’m all for it. But I have one condition.
Professors, use open file formats.
That means plain text (.txt), .png, .pdf, OpenDocument (such as .odt), LaTeX, etc.
Heck, there should a law for this. Open standards. I’m not asking for a cure against cancer, I’m only asking you teachers to click a few more buttons that will allow us students to use whatever software/hardware we want to deal with your files.
Look, I want to use LibreOffice and Linux, and don’t want to dual-boot or fiddle around a VM (or Wine… yuck) just to run MS Office. I mean, one should be able to do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t harm others. Does using Linux cause harm to others? I don’t think so. Apparently Boston College believes otherwise.
But why don’t school systems switch to open source solutions? FOSS, anyone? No one? … hello?
A lot of people are trained in Microsoft-based technologies, so there may be increased costs in re-training to learn how to use open source solutions. —Steve Beswick, director for education at Microsoft UK
And so “there may be increased costs in re-training”. Fine, okay. I get it. There’s one major aspect of FOSS he leaves out, though: it costs nothing. That’s right: no licensing fee, no installation fee, no using fee, no hidden fee. It’s free, as in “no money” and as in “free as a bird”, or libre. So even though there may be costs in re-training, they will be the only fees to cover.
Anyway, when it comes to saving a document in the Microsoft Office suite, you should save anything as an OpenDocument:
- Save text documents (Word) as “.odt”
- Save presentations (PowerPoint) as “.odp”
- Save spreadsheets (Excel) as “.ods”
If the above is not possible, then export as “.pdf” or “.txt”. Or just take a screenshot and send the “.png” file.
I’m thanking you already for doing this.
There should be nothing that terrifies Microsoft more than complete and universal adoption of open source by schools.—George Shaffer
What do you think about Microsoft? What is your opinion on FOSS? What’s your setup when it comes to using proprietary file formats? Share your thoughts in the comments! Until next time, thanks for reading.
> brb, installing linux :)